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  • November 29, 2019

    The Bundesliga's other leading goal scorers

    By Sam Planting
  • Spare a thought for all the mortal goal-scoring experts the current Bundesliga has to offer. Keyword: mortal. Because whatever Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner are currently doing in front of goal must be illegal in some countries. The prolific Bayern striker and the lightning-quick frontman of RB Leipzig stand at goal tallies of 16 and 12, respectively, 12 matchdays into the 2018–19 season. While Lewandowski and Werner have been in ludicrous form so far, the standout performances the two stars get all the attention and glory. So let us — we, fair people at StatsBomb — shine some light on the ‘other’ goal scorers one can find in the highest level of German pro football.

    Exempting those two, there are seven players who have scored at least six goals this campaign. Sorry, Marcus Thuram (five goals), Serge Gnabry (four goals plus one glorious moustache) and Jadon Sancho (four), but you awesome youngsters will surely come up in a future Bundesliga digest on this here fine website. The seven non-alien penalty box poachers can be divided into four categories. The question is — are these guys for real, or just on a very nice hot streak?

    The (fairly) unknowns

    A big, big shoutout to Rouwen Hennings. The 32-year old Fortuna Düsseldorf attacker flopped at Burnley just three years ago. After being a bench-warmer during their 2016–17 Championship campaign, Hennings was let go on a free transfer after Düsseldorf was promoted. The veteran lefty is now enjoying the best season of his career — which took him to four other German clubs in the lower-level leagues — by a wide margin. Hennings has already scored nine goals this Bundesliga season, three from the penalty spot, the rest from, ehm, quite the hot finishing touch he’s applied in and around the box. Fortuna players not named Hennings have just mustered six goals in twelve league games so far, so the streaky shooting of their frontman has been more than welcome in the early months of a season that has the makings of a tough relegation battle for Düsseldorf.

    The other fairly anonymous name toward the top of the Bundesliga’s goal scorers charts seems to have more staying power given his all-around skills. Sebastian Andersson (28) is utterly crucial to surprise outfit Union Berlin. The Christmas carol club from the capital city is on a three-game winning streak, with Andersson scoring three crucial goals in the last two wins (a brace in the 2–3 road win at Mainz, the stoppage time clincher in a 2–0 home upset of Mönchengladbach). The 6’3″ frontman is surprisingly mobile for someone his size, and his off-ball work rate is solid. Andersson may have developed later, but he’s still got plenty of years left, and his aerial prowess and diligent pressing make him a reasonable option as a target man in a 4-4-2 formation, should things change at Union, or Sweden call him up. He may not take a lot of shots, with only 1.63 per 90, but when he does, they’re lethal. He’s averaging a sky-high 0.21 expected goals per shot.

    The third ‘unknown’ finding the net with surprising ease is discussed in StatsBomb’s guide of Bundesliga break-out players, published earlier this season. Gonçalo Paciência’s mix of on-ball skill, positional awareness and aggressive play means he’s the number one option in Eintracht Frankfurt’s rotation of strikers. A nice achievement for the 25-year-old Portuguese attacker, given the big-name competition in André Silva and Bas Dost. Paciência looks to have leapfrogged his Silva as well in the Portugal national team hierarchy.

    Nils Petersen is still ‘Nils-ing’

    No, Petersen is not the most elegant player to grace the Bundesliga pitches. But his somewhat janky-looking playing style leaves him perpetually underrated. The Freiburg striker continues to do what he does: score some goals. He’s scored six in twelve, bringing his total in the 1. Bundesliga to 50 goals in 113 league games. Just look at this shot map, friends. Good ol’ Nils sure knows what a good shooting opportunity looks like, even if his goal total seems somewhat generous given the underlying xG.

    Playmakers who ‘have to’ score to keep their offenses humming

    Please, I beg of you. Appreciate the greatness of Marco Reus while we still can. The injury-plagued superstar of Borussia Dortmund has, frustratingly, been turned into somewhat more of an out-and-out second striker under Lucien Favre than the free-wheeling playmaker slash wide creator slash box-hunting attacking force he was in years past. But Reus is still such a good player. Even in a team that is malfunctioning in all types of ways at the moment.

    But while we’ve gotten used to Reus chipping in as a goalscorer as well as being the team’s main creative hub, Dortmund’s arch-rivals Schalke 04 have been pleasantly surprised by Amine Harit suddenly finding his scoring boots. The dribbling expert scored just four goals in 60 official games across all competitions in his first two seasons for the Königsblauen. Yet this season he’s scored six already, and two have been late game-winners. If the 22-year-old attacking midfielder is able to continue in adding goal-scoring to his already impressive skill-set, we might see his silky smooth dribbles at a bigger club than Schalke sooner rather than later. If Harit is set on achieving that, he’ll need to improve his shot decisions quickly, though.

    Harit really is doing a lot of things well with the ball at his feet; however, he is neither shooting a lot (1.39 shots per 90), nor taking high-value shots (0.09 xG per shot). If the goals are going to keep coming, at least one of those two things will have to change.

    Big Wout keeps surprising

    A little more than five years ago, Wout Weghorst was a back-up striker at lowly FC Emmen in the second tier of Dutch football. Weghorst was deemed too tall, too slow, too immobile and too stubborn to be the ‘total striker’ Dutch coaches and scouts are often times obsessed with. But mid-level Eredivisie squad Heracles Almelo took a shine to Weghorst, who proved himself a useful target man up top in his first season at the highest level, and developed into a solid goalscorer in his second. Next up for the 6’6″ Weghorst was a move to AZ Alkmaar. AZ? The analytically-driven club that ‘doesn’t do long crosses into the box’ signed the Eredivisie’s only good aerial specialist? Yup. Turns out, Weghorst can do much more than win headers and poach goals in the box. The big frontman impressed at Alkmaar due to his almost-insane work rate when pressing the opposition’s build-up. When VfL Wolfsburg brought in Weghorst for a lofty (at the time) sum of 10.5 million Euros, Dutch pundits started their fourth ‘Weghorst cycle of doubt’. But really, this dude is just a fine footballer. It’s just his size and incredible confidence he openly exudes at times can distract from his funky, but very useful, set of skills.

    Article by Sam Planting